A New Tool to Calculate Renewable Energy

Cranfield University has developed a new approach for calculating the potential renewable energy acquired from waste material, before incineration, which could save time and money for the energy and waste industries.

The Government’s Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) scheme places an obligation on UK electricity suppliers to demonstrate the biomass content of mixed fuels and offers incentives for sourcing an increasing proportion of the electricity they supply to customers from renewable sources.

The current process for calculating the renewable content of waste requires either manual sorting of waste into individual components, which is extremely time consuming and carries issues regarding labor costs and health and safety concerns, or analysis of the flue gas using specialist equipment for carbon dating, which is costly and can only be calculated retrospectively.

This new method uses an image analysis tool alongside microwave analysis. When placed above a conveyor belt in a waste treatment facility, it is able to accurately determine the composition of a mixed waste material and subsequently calculate how much renewable energy is derived from each individual component in the waste stream.

As well as saving time and money for the waste industry, the tool will enable energy suppliers to accurately prove the amount of biogenic material - waste made up of materials produced by living organisms or biological processes such as paper and food waste - in each load of mixed waste materials that will produce renewable energy through combustion.

The research has attracted interest in the private sector, and work is now being planned, in collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory, to further develop the tools and test them with a number of feedstocks in a range of waste handling facilities.